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Advice on slow progress with Russian course ...

Hi all ...

I started the Russian Course four months ago but i don't feel i'm progressing that well. I'm on Level 10 but only up to the "Food" lessons ... :(

Almost every day i need to redo and strengthen older lessons and I don't really feel i have full understanding of the Russian grammar lessons yet. Russian grammar is complicated and it seems hard to teach yourself using just Duolingo.

Is it normal to progress slowly like this ... Remembering all the new vocabulary also seems to take an age and slows down progress ...

Words of encouragement would be much appreciated ...

Thanks :)

May 7, 2017



Commiserations! :-)

It is completely normal! Russian grammar is not easy, in my opinion, and neither is the vocabulary. So it's just going to be a harder slog than learning most Romance or Germanic languages, and accepting this fact has helped me. (I gave up on Russian many years ago, but am now back to learning it because of this Duolingo course -- and have made it much further than the first time around and am enjoying the journey to boot.)

Firstly: You don't have to keep everything golden before you move on. Feel free to ignore Duolingo's suggestion that you should practice old skills, even if you know you don't know them that well yet, just so you can move on and get inspired by new skills. You can always go back and practice them later. I finished my tree back in September, and still practice a little every day. I wouldn't say I know everything in the tree, but I'm familiar with it all, and I keep practicing.

Secondly: What helped me was to practice the words in each of the lessons first (using the Duolingo Russian course on Memrise before doing the lesson on Duolingo. That way, the basic form of the word was already familiar, before I was asked to learn it in context and in its different forms. This helped a lot with vocabulary retention.

Thirdly: Don't rely exclusively on the TipsNotes for grammar. I didn't really understand them that well, so I looked up different grammatical concepts and examples online when I needed them. (My first foreign language was German, so it's not that I don't get "grammar" in general...)

Fourthly: Take your time! That way you won't burn out. Also try other resources either alongside Duolingo or after you've finished the course. My favourites right now are Lingvist and the Memrise course Top 10,000 Words as well as listening to the radio in Russian (regardless of how much, if anything, I understand of the program in question).

Although it's harder to communicate here on Duolingo than it used to be, there are always helpful and friendly fellow learners and even native speakers around, so don't be afraid to ask, should you have a specific question! :-)


Thank you annika_a ! That is indeed music to my ears ! :) It's good to know i'm not alone and that i can try and progress through the course without understanding the grammar basics. However, can i not ask ... if i don't understand the grammar, I'll be forever making spelling mistakes in all later lessons won't I ?! Duolingo Russian is a fabulous course (and it's free) ... but as a complete new learner it doesn't always explain things that clearly.


Glad to be of service! ;-)

Yes, it's the age old question of learning either "like a child" (just letting it all wash over you and somehow figuring it out as you go along without consciously studying it) or "the old school way" (sitting down and studying one grammar topic at a time, then practicing that, and only moving forward once you've learned each topic).

Duolingo was originally built on the first kind of learning, as there were no Tips&Notes in the first courses. I used to learn very much leaning on the other kind (cf. those early German classes...). But I think the solution (which will vary between different learners and even different languages) lies somewhere in between: To try to be generally aware of the grammar, but to not get hung up on tables of endings and stuff.

So while it's certainly important to learn the gender of each noun as you learn the noun itself, for example, and that there are six cases and which preposition goes with which, I haven't made myself memorize exactly which ending a neuter noun gets in the instrumental case, for example (not to mention all the special cases with spelling changes, animate or inanimate masculines, etc.).

I'm not saying this is the proper way (or even a good way) of doing things: I certainly make "stupid" mistakes a lot because I haven't learned the grammar formally. But I'm figuring the 17th time I make the same mistake I'll start maybe naturally learn to avoid it. This method definitely works for me for learning vocabulary (on Memrise and Lingvist)! Even when it comes to spelling: I'm now pretty good at guessing the correct spelling of a word I've seen a couple of times before. And it's starting to work even for the grammar bits.

If I had a Russian exam coming up next month, I'd bite the bullet and sit down with my grammar book and do it the hard, boring, but ultimately effective way. But since I'm in no hurry and am accountable only to myself, I'm happy to just keep clicking away and learning in a fun and less structured way. YMMV.


Thanks again for such a comprehensive reply ! :) I'll look at that grammar book ... somehow it alwys seems easier seeing stuff in print to memorise. I'm also struggling to understand spoken Russian ... Duolingo mostly trains you to read but i often learn the word pronunciation totally wrong. Again ... no substitute for speaking with native Russian and actually living in the country itself. I'll keep plugging away ... I've been stuck at this lesson for a couple of weeks so time i moved on ...


PS. For some of us, the course has been pretty challenging up until about the last checkpoint, after which most of the grammar (that is covered by this course) has been covered and you mostly learn new words and practice those grammatical concepts. So at least that's something to look forward to......

For pronunciation, make sure to have the sound on on Duolingo and whatever other resources you're using that have sound!

I'll stop hogging the discussion now. :-)


@RoderickEdwards all courses have 25 levels and you advance as you gather XPs. So the more time you spend on a tree the higher your level will be, no matter how much you actually learn. You could repeat Basics 1 until you reach level 25 if you so wished. I think most people reach the end of a tree between level 11 and 18. It depends on their background with the language and on the tree (some are a lot longer than others).


You're not hogging at all :) !!! Out of interest ... I'm on Level 10 ... how many levels are there on the Russian Course / Tree ?


I keep losing "Previous Lesson Segments" even when i meet my Daily Target ... Is this normal ... I feel i'm sinking ... Glug glug ... :-/


thank you annika_a! That's my approach too. This is just a really steep learning curve because I have absolutely no Russian experience to build on. But it will come! I've seen it happen before! :-)


Cheat! Just like in school, sometimes you need a lil help to get to a place where you can actually apply your skills. There were dozens of times I asked a desperate question or made another entry in my "Russian is hopelessly hard" notebook, only for things to click the next day, the next lesson or while looking up some unrelated concept.
Making progress is important, four months with just you, Tim, Dima and Emma is more than enough to turn anybody into an axe murderer. My money's on Tim.


what a funny reply!!! Tim, Dima and Emma, but don't forget Vera! Besides, "Tim is my favorite dog" so I can understand your money is on him!


Yup, I agree with Annika. I finished the tree at around New years day, I think and now it's finally golden. It took me a year and as I've been repeating the old lessons I've seen things I missed when I first learned them and I can see how much I've actually learned. I did use textbooks and grammar books together with Duolingo. I couldn't have made it without them. What I suggest is to have a strategy: say you might decide to do one lesson every day or one skill every day. Something that feel doable to you. Then just move on according to your plan. But don't forget to repeat the lessons. I do each lesson twice in a row before moving on to the next one. I might do some three times if I feel I need it. Once I finish a skill, I repeat it the next day and the day after that. So the whole routine for me was: two skills I'd already learned and twice all the lessons in the next skill (or just half of them if the skill is very long). This way the tree stays golden and there's enough repetition to learn most of the vocabulary so that the later skills won't be too difficult.


Plus by going back and repeating the lessons, you get to keep an eye on who's winning which comment war.

Did you use Russian-Finnish dictionaries and textbooks or mostly just English stuff?


:D That's true, one could do that. I tend to only read the comments the first time I do a lesson, and then only if I don't understand something. Usually whatever I want to know has already been asked and answered.

I use textbooks for Finns, mainly. There's a ton, since we are neighbors and a lot of it is really good quality. I do have some more advanced grammar books in English. One that I just finished is Roy Bivon's The Russian Verb. A bit dry, but still very interesting book about all the different things concerning Russian verbal system (aspects, prefixes, prepositions etc.). It really helped me understand how it all works even though I can't remember all the details yet. Another book I'm currently reading is Russian Phonetic Reader which has short stories in russian on one page and on another the same story is written phonetically and with symbols for intonation. There's also translation into English for each text.


i started with Russian and repeat it many times, so gradually you will improve. Better to repeat the basis over and over again, so it will help you when you are further in the course. It is not so familiair and that is why it takes more time. Take your time and you will succeed in it, i am sure!


commiserations here too! I feel like I have to go over the same lessons over and over to remember them. The cyrillic alphabet is partially settling in my brain. Egads... it takes a lot of time! But we'll keep on and eventually it will stick! :-)


Don't worry Camilla ... you're not the only one struggling with cyrilic too :) And when you get familiar with it, i can't read English quite as well !


Yup, it really messes up my head. I mean what am I supposed to read when I see something like PAT or HOT?


Glad i'm not the only one ... ;)


oops... do you mean, you forget English when you learn cyrillic?


Yes ! Sometimes it just takes a moment to adjust ! :D


I learned this Russian Alphabet Song ! Easiest way to remember ... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0SKWkMGVSY


My advice to you is don't rely solely on duolingo for your learning. Watch youtube videos, look up a russian language blog online, find a fun pop song and see if you can translate it with google. And keep it simple, don't be afraid to watch the most basic of russian lessons on youtube (there's a ton of really good people doing awesome lessons if you look hard enough), and read the beginner blog stuff. If you see a vocabulary word or phrase that you really like write it down and memorize it.

It is so much more fun when you see what learned on the videos and blogs cross over to a new duolingo lesson like hey! I've already learned that on my own and vice versa.

Don't repeat a duolingo lesson to memorize the words that gets so boring. Put the vocabulary on flash cards, or quizlet (that you made yourself) and memorize it all before you go and redo the lesson.

Use forvo (google it) for pronunciation because duolingo doesn't really help at all for listening.

Above all have fun with the language. Don't restrict yourself to the next duolingo lesson. Branch out and explore because there are so many resources for beginners out there. I know a bunch of easy pop songs to translate and listen to btw if you want em.


Thanks b_Josh :) Your suggestions for online videos makes sense ... I'm struggling with remembering all the words in each Duolingo lesson and i'm trying not to move on too fast until i've learned it all.

Problem is, I'm not really understanding the grammar as Duolingo doesn't really explain this well. Fabulous course and it's free ... but not perfect. Mind you, their new TinyCards App (Flashcards) is a nice new addition to this course (and again freeeeee !!!) Thanks Duolingo. I also wish the previous Duplongo lessons wouldn't keep losing 'segments' as i feels i'm sinking rather than swimming forward fast.

Learning Ruusian vocabulary is the most important i think ... but also tricky. Appreciate your suggestions ...

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